Locksmithing/Cary safe


Hi Andy,

I have been reading your posts and it seems you are indeed an expert.  I just aquired a Cary safe as a partial trade for some work performed. I wanted it because of its local history and I've just always wanted one. I was given a combination but I cannot make it work. I've tried some of your methods on other posts, but no luck. I'd like to see if you could shed any light on this particular safe. I will include a picture of the dial and handle with serial number and I will list the combination below as it was written for me. Also, if there's any way the serial number would tell an approximate manufacture date, that would be interesting as well. Thank you for your time and expertise.

Serial number 125311

Combination (verbatim)

Roll to left til 20
4 turns 40
3 turns 60
2 turns 80

Hi Kevin,

Your Cary safe was manufactured between 1910-1912 (about 1911).   The lock that I would expect to find on your safe (based on the serial number), would be a Yale Y-6.

Problems with getting the combo from the previous owner is that they tend to pass them along the way that THEY understand them and NOT necessarily the way that the lock works - seems so in this case.   The following is the correct dialing sequence for your lock based on the numbers you provided.

5 times right to the first number, 20
4 times left to the second number, 40
3 times right to the third number, 60
2 times left to the fourth number, 80
1 time right until the dial stops, about 92

Note:   Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the INDIVIDUAL number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   So for instance, for your first number you will turn the dial clockwise (right), stopping the FIFTH time the number 20 arrives at the index mark.

There are ONLY three reasons a safe lock won't open, they are (in order):
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, operator errors
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers
3.  Mechanical problems.

I think at this point that your problems are either #1 or #2.   We have listed the correct dialing sequence for the lock that should be installed, so if it still won't open then you are either making a dialing error, or the numbers are NOT correct.    You might want to verify with the previous owner, that the numbers are correct and in the correct sequence, or you may want to have them SHOW you how they dial it.   As the dialing sequence that you provided is not correct either they were dialing the lock backwards or the numbers are not correct when dialed correctly.

If it still won't open, then you may want to have it checked out by a local safe companies trained safe tech.

If you have any other questions I would be happy to see if I can answer them for you.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland safes from the 1860's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2014 - Listed in AllExperts Top 50 Experts. All Expert Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service Area is Northern California (Fresno to Oregon and Western Nevada)

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.